Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: After the glory comes the shame

Two days and two very different images of Northern Ireland.

Yesterday, as the front page of this newspaper demonstrated graphically, a hugely talented young sportsman from this province was making headlines around the world after a thrilling, astounding victory in one of golf's greatest tournaments. Rory McIlroy was pictured on newspapers everywhere rejoicing in the fruits of years of dedication to his chosen profession. He is a young man with a God-given talent who has utilised it to the maximum through sheer hard work. Nothing was handed to him on a plate.

Now 24 hours later and our front page is very different. A young child, bewildered and afraid, looks through the shattered window pane of his home after a night of orchestrated violence in Belfast. There is no feelgood factor in that image. Instead of wondering how we could capitalise on the exploits of our sporting stars, we are now questioning what damage this throwback to our violent past may cost us. For the world's media, instead of shaking their heads in disbelief at how we can produce golfers of the stature of McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, are equally bemused at these violent images from a country supposedly at peace with itself.

It has to be said clearly and unequivocally. There was no excuse or justification for the violence which was perpetrated in the Short Strand area of Belfast by loyalist paramilitaries. Republicans joined in but they were not the originators of the trouble.

Some may see the violence as a symptom of the disenchantment in loyalist areas with the peace process and a feeling that that community has not reaped any dividend. That is an issue which has to be addressed, but the police must clamp down on the men of violence who have contributed to that deprivation.

Violence makes the task of selling Northern Ireland as a destination for investment or tourism so much more difficult at a time when there are determined efforts being made to revitalise the economy. For decades this was a blighted province, largely shunned by the outside world. There can never be any return to those days.

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